Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Few More Thoughts on Stanley Hauerwas: The Quote from de Cherge

Greetings:
Today I was re-reading Chapter 1 of Stanely Hauerwas's Cross-Shattered Christ, and came again to the beautiful quote from Trappist prior Christian de Cherge, killed by Islamic radicals in Algeria in 1996.
De Cerge wrote a letter to his family shortly before his death. Hauerwas says "he [de Cherge] expressed the fear that his death will be used to accuse in general these people, these Islamic people, whom he has come to love" (31).
Here is the quote:
"Obviously my death will justify the opinion of all those who dismissed me as naive or idealistic: 'Let him tell us what he thinks now.' But such people should know that my death will satisfy my most burning curiosity. At last, I will be able--if God pleases--to see the children of Islam as He sees them, illuminated in the glory of Christ, sharing in the gift of God's Passion and of the Sprit, whose secret joy will always be to bring forth our common humanity amidst our differences.
"I give thanks to God for this life, completely mine yet completely theirs, too, to God, who wanted it for joy against, and in spite of, all odds. In this Thank You--which says everything about my life---I include you, my friends past and present, and those friends who will be here at the side of my mother and father, of my sisters and brothers--thank you a thousandfold.
"And to you, too, my friend of the last moment, who will not know what you are doing. Yes; for you, too, I wish this thank-you, this 'A-Dieu,' whose image is in you also, that we may meet in heaven, like happy thieves, if it pleases God, our common Father. Amen! Insha Allah!" (32).
Hauerwas concludes the chapter--which centers on Christ's words, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing"--by saying that God's love makes "possible lives like that of Christian de Cherge, that is, lives lived in the confidence that Jesus, the only Son of God, alone has the right to ask the Father to forgive people like us who would kill rather than face death" (33).
Earlier in the chapter he says, "We are made members of a kingdom governed by a politics of forgiveness and redemption. The world is offered an alternative unimaginable by our sin-drenched fantasies" (31).
I've thought about this passage a long time.
We live in a world in which each day's headlines tell of Islamic people who kill, and all too often of Christians and Jews who kill in retaliation. These headlines depict sin-drenched fantasies, indeed. We would rather kill than face death. In contrast to this bloody fantasy, how can we further the kingdom of forgiveness and redemption even amid the on-going killing and war?
Your thoughts?
Best wishes,
Mason Smith

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